Bad news, poetry fans.
To everything in the Minnesota Legislature, there is a season, and the season for policy bills hasn’t been kind to Senate File 405, designating “Minnesota Blue” as the official state poem. Its deadline has passed.
Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in the Legislature. And every year, the ones that don’t move fast enough or far enough before their deadlines, they die. Well, they usually die.
March 15 was the last chance for this year’s crop of policy bills to make it through at least one committee on their home turf. They then had until this past Friday to make it through at least one committee in the neighboring house of the Legislature.
The state poem wasn’t the only bill that didn’t make it over the transom before deadline. Neither did Sunday liquor sales, legalized hemp farming, an attempt to ban actors from smoking on stage, a tax credit for businesses that hire ex-convicts, a bill that would make pet owners liable for injuries sustained in a cat attack and the Legislature’s perennial attempt to raise the speed limit on Interstate 35E in St. Paul to 50 miles per hour.
Of course, in the Legislature, deadlines don’t always mean death.
“Things are never truly dead in the Legislature,” said Carl Hamre, supervisor of the House Index Office, which tracks every single bill — 1,661 of them so far this year. Add that to the 1,511 bills the Senate has logged to date.
A bill that misses deadline, he noted, can always find a second life, wrapped into an omnibus or amended onto another piece of legislation or brought up again on the floor.
“If there are enough votes, they can resurrect anything,” Hamre said.
After the coming week’s recess, there will be eight weeks to go in the 2013 legislative session.
When House lawmakers return, there will be 163 bills out of committee and waiting for a floor vote and 449 other bills or bill variations still pinging around the committees. The other thousand or so House bills didn’t make deadline.
Deadlines aren’t always as dire as they sound either. “They’re more a general way to weed out the bills that aren’t going anywhere,” Hamre said.
Bills like Rep. Ryan Winkler’s tongue-in-cheek attempt to legislate a beloved hockey rivalry back into existence. Now that the University of Minnesota Gophers and the University of North Dakota will be playing in different conferences, Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, introduced a bill last week that proposes letting the state pick up the tab — for the bargain price of 800,000 taxpayer dollars — for a once-a-year matchup between the teams.
For supporters of other bills, however, a looming deadline can be a heartbreaker.
More than 100 calls poured into the Senate Commerce Committee as the clock ticked down on the Homeowner Bill of Rights earlier this month. The bill would have guaranteed certain protections for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. But despite phone calls, rallies and protesters who crowded around Commerce Chairman James Metzen’s office, the bill did not get a hearing before the March 15 deadline.
“We’re really disappointed,” said Nick Espinosa, spokesman for Occupy Homes, one of the groups that had been lobbying for the bill. “There are hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans losing their homes. It’s unfair and unjust.”
The Minnesota Legislature will be on its Easter/Passover recess until April. 2.